Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking: Quantum Statistical Mechanics versus Quantum Field Theory

Philosophy of Science 79 (5):905-916 (2012)
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Philosophical analysis of spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB) in particle physics has been hindered by the unavailability of rigorous formulations of models in quantum field theory (QFT). A strategy for addressing this problem is to use the rigorous models that have been constructed for SSB in quantum statistical mechanics (QSM) systems as a basis for drawing analogous conclusions about SSB in QFT. On the basis of an analysis of this strategy as an instance of the application of the same mathematical formalism to different domains and as an instance of drawing analogies between domains, I conclude that certain structural explanations can be exported from QSM to QFT but that causal explanations cannot.



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Doreen Fraser
University of Waterloo

References found in this work

Gauge invariant accounts of the Higgs mechanism.Ward Struyve - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 42 (4):226-236.
Explaining quantum spontaneous symmetry breaking.Chuang Liu & Gérard G. Emch - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 36 (1):137-163.

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